a painting worth change

a story by Inara Pirani ’19


Letter from Di Alakija to Brooklyn Alakija

Wednesday, September 4th 10:35 AM

Hi Brooke,

How are you? I guess I’m okay. I woke up this morning, made a bowl of oatmeal (now that I live by myself– ha!), then I took the train to work (because I can’t afford a car or a cab). It is now lunchtime and I am checking my Facebook and writing you a letter. I had a meeting this morning with some old rich dude who wanted to make sure that his will covered the fact that if he died, he wanted all seven of his dogs to be given to his niece. The poor niece. All his other relatives are getting  his antique furniture and crystal chandeliers, and his niece is getting seven sloppy dogs. If only I were rich and all I needed to think about in my will was my dumb dogs. I can barely afford to feed myself, let alone seven dogs. Oh yeah, and remember Skylar Brown from high school? She sent me a message this morning saying that she’s going to Hawaii for a week with her husband. Two weeks ago she went to Thailand with him. Last month she went to France. I mean, really? Her life is one loooong holiday. If only I could go on vacation and spend boatloads of money on things I didn’t need. That’d be a pretty great life. No work, all relaxation. People say money doesn’t solve problems, but I think it does. I mean, if I had money, then I wouldn’t have to go to work and I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk during my lunch hour writing you letters, telling you about my horrible social life. Everyone in the office thinks I’m stupid because on my first day, I broke the coffee machine; I figure that’s the reason why no one talks to me. Or it could be because I have no money…

Oh well, enough about me. Tell me what’s new in the Big Apple! Is it true that Mrs. Scott “borrowed” Mom’s flowers from the porch? Mom sent me this angry text about it at 2 in the morning 🙂

Anyway, give my love to everyone at home.

Your sister,

Longwood Police Department
Incident Log
Officer Name: Sergeant Franklin Hansway
Date: September 4th, 11:45 PM
Type of Incident: Death–Suicide
People Involved: Jeffery Putler (Owner and Founder of The Putler Art Museum)

At 11:45 PM, Officer Hansway was dispatched to the Putler Residence on 914 West St. When the officer arrived at the scene, Mrs. Andrea Putler took him into the master bedroom where her husband, Jeffery Putler, was lying on the floor. In his hand was an empty glass vial. The vial had no label. Andrea Putler informed the officer that she had been at a community service event at their art museum and had returned home to find her husband dead on the floor of their bedroom. Suicide note has been found and handwriting confirmed by Mrs. Putler.

Letter from Di Alakija to Brooklyn Alakija
Thursday, September 5th 9:40 AM

Dear Brooke,

I was watching the news last night and this rich museum owner just got murdered in my town. I am super scared to come home tonight because it’s possible that the murderer is still around. Anyway the guy’s name is Mr. Putler. I am his wife and his’s attorney for wills. He’s had a really weird financial history. About 10 years ago Mr. Putler worked as a cashier in a Target in Seattle, so he and his wife were pretty poor. Then he got some inheritance money, quit his job, and opened the Putler Museum here in Longwood. See what I said about money earlier? I mean, that’s the life! So now they have owned their painting museum for some time. Well, until he died yesterday.   

I have been busy arranging the items in Mr. Putler’s will. I met with his wife, Mrs. Putler, earlier today to go over some of the details. She was acting kind of funny, and when I asked her if she was okay, she told me she had a suspicion that Mr. Putler didn’t kill himself. She thought that the suicide had been staged. When she first told me that, I didn’t really believe her. I figured she was just in shock or something, and she didn’t want to believe that her husband had killed himself. But then she started telling me that he had been really happy lately because they had gotten this new collection of paintings for their museum. The museum hadn’t been doing very well before, but ever since they took in the new collection, business had picked up. The collection contained some super valuable Weston Short Brush painting in it. This kind of confused me. I mean, why spend a bunch of money on some painting and then kill yourself? Mrs. Putler seemed really genuine, too. This seems kind of suspicious…

BTW Sent you some sweaters I found at a rummage sale last week. Let me know if you get it!

Love ya,

Email for Di Alakija
From: US Postal Service-noreply
Time: September 5th, 2016 12:08 PM
Subject:Postal Message-noreply

Di Alakija,

An urgent package has been sent for you. We are holding it for you at our Longwood location. Please pick it up within the next 24 hours.


Pete Wallace
Longwood Branch Manager

Letter from Di Alakija to Brooklyn Alakija
September 5th 6:50PM

Hi Brooke,

I got an email from the post office earlier today saying I had to pick up a package… who gets an email from their post office? I spent my lunch trying to figure out who had sent me that package (not that I have any friends in my office to talk to). I mean, I guess it could always be grandma sending me some sweaters or some other junk she picks up at a yard sale, but usually she calls me before she does.  Anyway, I went there after work and the dude at the desk just handed me this box and told me that it was very urgent. Inside was a sticky note that said ‘Longwood Business Directory 2016-13-17.’ Well, I didn’t spend my childhood reading Hardy Boys and watching National Treasure for nothing. I knew this was an Ottendorf Cipher. The first number would be the book, so the Longwood Business Directory 2016, and the second number was the page number and the last number was the line on that page. I asked the guy at the desk for the copy of the most recent business directory and flipped to page thirteen. I found line seventeen which was for some roofing business. I looked through the directory from last year too, but the business wasn’t there. I figured it must be some new start up. I think I’ll check it out tomorrow after work. This whole thing about Mr. Putler’s death is really fishy and I think this suspicious note might be related…

Say hi to everyone in NY for me!


Article from the Longwood Times



Letter from Di Alakija to Brooke Alakija
Sept 6th 7:45 PM

Hey Brooke,

What’s up? How’s the weather in New York? It rained all day.  No, that’s not the highlight of my day, but I’m getting there. So after a long and rather boring day filled with wills and testimonies and listening to the rain hit my office window, I went to the roofing company address. The building was a three-story structure, made of gloomy, gray bricks. I guess it looked like it was under construction, like it had tarps and everything, but there were no construction vehicles in sight. When I tried the door, it was open. The inside was even worse than the outside. The lobby was covered with a thick layer of dust, so I couldn’t see much. The directory sign in front said that Fred’s Roofing was on the third floor. I wasn’t taking a chance with a crashing elevator, so I took the stairs. The whole building smelled like mold and wet dog. When I got to the third floor it was completely empty of people. There were a couple of dusty chairs and tables scattered around. Weak light  filtered through the windows, but other than that the room was pretty dark. I groped for a light switch. When I finally found one, it didn’t work. Go figure. I turned on my flashlight app and shined it around the room. On one of the tables was a duffle bag. It looked clean and new compared to its dusty surroundings. I walked over and unzipped it. Inside was an extension cord, several grubby batteries and what I thought was a stone. Weird. I picked it up and held it to my flashlight. It was smooth and silver and had beautiful notches all along the top. It looked like a small bottle top. A bottle cap that fit on top of a small fancy bottle… It was at that moment that I remembered what the news had said last night.  Mr. Putler had been holding a fancy bottle when he died. The news guy had never said anything about a bottle cap though..

I wondered how these things were linked. There MUST be some connection. Why would someone send me here? I was taking pictures of the bottle cap with my phone, when I heard footsteps. Heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. I could hear them coming from behind a door that I hadn’t seen until now. Well, I had no right to be here…so I dropped the bottle cap on the floor and dashed out through the door I came in from. I ran out of the building and tried to look as normal as possible to the pedestrians on the sidewalk outside. As I made my way back to the subway station I spotted a black van parked directly outside the building. I did not remember that being there when I had entered. Believe me, I had jay-walked across the street and I would have remembered if there had been a sketchy black van around. On my ride home, I mulled over all the things that I had seen over the past few days. By the time I reached my stop, I decided it might just be time to get Mrs. Putler on board. When I called her she told me she hired a private investigator (what you can do with money!). Turns out she hired George Parker. You know, the George who lived down the street from us when we lived in Manhattan? He and I were in the same science class my senior year in high school. He moved to Longwood a couple years before I did. I saw him a couple of months ago at some town wide benefit dinner, but I have not seen him much since. Anyway, tell me more about what’s going on in NYC! Did Mom finally start talking to Mrs. Scott again? 🙂

I gotta go now!

Love you,


Picture of the bottle cap Di found at the roofing company:


Phone Conversation between Di Alakija and George Parker

Di: Hey George! This is Di Alakija.

George: Di? Oh my gosh! It’s been so long! How are you?

Di: I’m fine. How are you?

George: I’m well. Boy, we really need to catch up sometime.

Di: Yeah, we really do. Anyway, I am Mr. Putler’s attorney for wills, and Mrs. Putler told me that she hired you to look into Mr. Putler’s potentially staged suicide.

George: Yeah. She called me the night he died, right before she called the police.

Di: Really? Have you done work with her before this?

George: Yeah. The museum was having some security issues a couple of years ago, and the couple had called me to investigate.

Di: Oh, okay. Well, Mrs. Putler asked if I could help. Would it be possible to email me a copy of the report that you wrote the night Mr. Putler died?

George: Well….I guess so. Only because Mrs. Putler asked you to help. Maybe you can help me get to the bottom of this.

Di: Oh, I hope so! I feel so bad for Mrs. Putler.

George: Yeah. Let me know if you find anything out.

Di: Yes, I will. Thank you so much.

George: No problem. Thank you for helping me out.

Di: Haha. Have a good evening.

George: Yeah you too. Bye!

Death Report:

Filed by George Samuel Parker
Time: 10:00 PM September 4, 2016

I received a call around midnight from Mrs. Andrea Putler. She told me that she had found her husband on the floor of their bedroom, shortly after she returned home from an event at their museum. Mr. Putler was not breathing and there was no sign of trauma.

I left my office and headed to her house. When I got there, she let me in and took me to the bedroom. The deceased Mr. Putler was on the floor, lying on his back, holding a bottle. The three inch glass bottle was empty, unmarked and open. The bottle looked like an antique, with a silver floral pattern on the side of the bottle. The bottle cap was missing. There was no sign of break-in in the house. All windows and doors were intact. A suicide note was found, written in orange crayon. Small broken crayon pieces were found next to the victim. Mrs. Putler had gotten home half an hour before, and had immediately called me. I left everything the way it was before we called the police. I left the house before the police arrived. Later that night I received a telephone call from Mrs. Putler. She informed me that she did not think that her husband had committed suicide. She said he had, in no way been acting depressed, unhappy, or suicidal. She asked me to investigate if his suicide had been staged.

Picture of the bottle:


Di’s Journal
Friday September 6th 11:45 PM

Ha! The missing bottle cap was in the roofing company building. That proves it’s been staged! Mr. Putler could not have put the bottle cap in the building, so there must be a third party involved. I’ll tell George tomorrow… I wonder if it was the murderer’s footsteps that I heard when I went to the building today. Maybe we can do a stakeout…

Email to Di Alakija and George Parker

To: DiAlakija@smithandstone.com, georgeparker@gmail.com
From: Andrae Putler<aputler@gmail.com>
Time: September 7, 2016 12:15 AM
Subject: Urgent Message

Di and George,

Thank you so much for all you have done to help me during this rough patch. I have some frightening news. This evening I received a death threat. When I came home from work around 5 PM this note was wedged under my door. I have included a picture of the note. I know you two are working together to solve the mystery of who killed my husband. I hope we find out soon. I have not been feeling well lately but I promise to help you as much as I can.

Thank you,

Andrea Putler


Letter from Di Alakija to Brooklyn Alakija
Sept 7th 12:19 AM

Hi Brooke,

I’m super freaked out…

I just got an email from Mrs. Putler. She received a death threat, saying that if she talked, she would be murdered too. Obviously she did talk, which is the only reason I know about it… This is so creepy. What if the murderer finds out she talked and comes after ME?

Also, I just remembered that when I visited the roofing company place yesterday and heard footsteps,  I dropped the bottle cap and ran out of there. The disturbed bottle cap and the open duffle bag must have given it away that someone had been there. The roofing company must belong to the murderer. When the murderer saw that someone had broken in, they probably thought it was Mrs. Putler, because she would have been the only one who could have suspected  that Mr. Putler’s death was staged. That’s why the murderer sent Mrs. Putler the death threat note. But poor Mrs. Putler has no idea what was going on because the person loitering around in the roofing company office was me…

    Well, at least one good thing came out of this…Now we know for sure that Mr. Putler’s death was staged. The thing I’m confused about is who sent me the mail package with the note about looking in the directory…Was it the murderer? And if so, why would they want me to know more about this case? Or is there someone else in the picture who is trying to help me?

BTW Thanks for the package! I got it yesterday evening. Tell Grandma thanks for including those salt and pepper shakers. Did she find them at a yard sale?

Talk to you soon,


George’s Diary
September 7th

I talked to Di this morning.  She told me about the letter she received, and about the roofing company. Now it all makes much more sense. The murderer must have thought that it was Mrs. Putler who was at the roofing company building. That was why they sent her the threat. Anyway, Di and I agreed that we would have a stake out at the roofing company building this afternoon. I told her I would get some of my friends from my agency to help us. I figured that because we didn’t have any proper evidence we shouldn’t call the police just yet. I hope we also find the Weston Short Brush painting. It’s very possible that those two are linked.


PI Report:
Filed by George Samuel Parker
Time: September 7th 2016, 2:40 PM

    I am stationed outside 19 Main Street, Longwood WA. I am sitting in my car across the street from the main entrance. So far, no one has left the building since 1:45 PM today. Di is stationed inside the building, in a closet in the lobby. My colleague, William, is stationed discreetly by the back entrance. We have locked the doors in the building, preventing the thief (or thieves) from escaping.

    Before we went to our stations, Di spotted a black van parked outside. She said she saw it when she came here yesterday. It’s highly possible that the van belongs to the murderer and potential thief. It is also likely that the murderer/thief is inside the building currently.


Six minutes later…


Letter from Di Alakija to Brooklyn Alakija
September 7th 2016 9:30 PM

WE CAUGHT THEM!!!!! YAHOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok…I’d better slow down and tell you what happened….Whew! So, I was stationed in the lobby right? And I saw these two guys. They were struggling to carry this super heavy package down the stairs to the lobby. They were both wearing all black but their faces were not covered or anything. One of the guys was kind of old, with blond hair streaked with gray. He was yelling at the other guy to hold his end up higher. The other guy was shorter, with the same blond hair as the other guy. The two guys strongly resembled one another so I figured they were related or something. Anyway, the shorter one couldn’t have been any older than you. I sent a text to George and William. By the time the guys got to the front door both PI’s were there waiting for them 🙂 When we tried to tie them up the older guy kept screaming to let him go and tried to strike George. The younger one did not look sad at all. He did not protest or anything when I tied up his hands. And he smiled at me when I was done (!?) When we looked in the older guy’s pocket, sure enough, there was a broken orange crayon and the bottle cap. When we unwrapped the package we found the missing Weston Short Brush painting. Then we called the police.

Pretty cool huh?

Love you,


Longwood Police Department Incident Log
Officer Name: Akshara Kaur
Date: 2:45 PM, Saturday September 7th 2016
Type of Incident: Suspect
People Involved: –

Officer Kaur was dispatched to a renovating business park on Main Street. A phone call was received by the Longwood Police Department saying that the caller had found the thieves of the missing Weston Short Brush painting, which was stolen on Friday September 6, 2016. The caller also said that these individuals had staged the death of Mr. Jeffrey Putler who was said to have died from suicide earlier this week. When the officer arrived at the scene, she was met by two Private Investigators and a District Attorney. These people had been hired by Mr. Putler’s wife, as she had first suspected that her husband’s death had been staged.  The thieves/murderers were taken into custody by the chief police of the Longwood Police Department.

When  Police Chief Alex Sargsyan privately questioned the individuals, only one of them was willing to talk. The culprit stated that his name was Nathan Stein and that he was a senior at Langley High School in Los Angeles, California. Stein told the officer that he and his uncle, Liam Stein, were descendants from the famous painter, the late Mr. Weston Short Brush. In Mr. Short Brush’s will, the artist had passed on several of his paintings to his close relatives. He had not, however, given any of his works to Liam Stein. Liam Stein had been greatly upset when he heard this and had set out to to steal the most valuable painting and to kill the descendant that had been given this painting. Nathan said that his uncle had been planning to sell the paintings he received in the will and use the money to start a black market painting business. According to Nathan, his uncle had always been talking about starting up this business “if only he had the money”.

 Liam had threatened his nephew, Nathan, into helping him. Nathan and his uncle had mistaken Mr. Putler as the descendant, instead of the man who had recently sold this painting to him. The two had killed Mr. Putler with a staged suicide from an overdose of cyanide. Before dying, Mr. Putler had been forced to write a suicide note. Nathan, whose uncle had put him up to do “the dirty work,” as he said, had forgotten to bring a pen. The suicide note was written with half a broken crayon Liam Stein had with him at that time. Half the crayon had been found in the Putler home on the night of September 5th, and the other half had been found in Liam Stein’s pocket the evening he was captured. The two men then stole the Short Brush painting from the Putler Museum.

Shortly after he realized they had killed the wrong person, Nathan began to get “cold feet.” He said he felt very sorry for what he had done, and that he wanted him and his uncle to get caught, believing that what they had done had been very wrong. To relieve his feeling, Nathan secretly sent an anonymous Ottendorf cipher to the Putlers’ lawyer, Di Alakija, in which he disclosed the location that he and his uncle had been using as a hideout. Nathan said he figured that Mrs. Putler would put her concerns in the hands of her lawyer.

A few days earlier, Ms. Alakija had visited the location of their hideout, and upon hearing footsteps, left the premises while leaving several items disturbed. Mr. Liam Stein found the disturbed items and immediately suspected Mrs. Andrea Putler, the wife of the deceased Mr. Putler. Mr. Stein sent a death threat to Mrs. Putler, saying that if she talked she would “meet the same end as her husband.”

Mr. Liam Stein then decided to leave town as quickly as possible. Nathan said that they planned to leave for the airport on the evening of September 7th. From there they would go to Texas, where they had contacted a buyer for the stolen painting. Ms. Alakija and two private investigators hired by Mrs. Putler upon the death of her husband, had performed a stakeout at the building and had caught the two trying to smuggle the painting out the door before they were headed for the airport. Both Liam and Nathan are currently being held at the Longwood Jail.

Letter from Di Alakija to Brooklyn Alakija
September 8th 2016 4:30 PM

Hey Brooke,

What’s new?

I’ve sent you a copy of the police log they sent me after the crooks got caught.

I feel really bad for Nathan…I went to go see him earlier today. The poor kid was taken out of high school by his killer uncle. I thanked him for confessing and for letting me know. He seems like a really sweet kid.

I also feel really bad that I hated my job so much before and that I complained about my financial status. I mean, Liam Stein also wanted money, and look what happened to him. He got overly crazed and wanted to steal and kill in order to get more money. Nathan told me that  Liam used to be really nice before he fell into this money-craze.

I guess I shouldn’t be as cynical towards people who have money though, like Skylar and that “7 dog” dude. The world needs all kinds of people, and for me, I’ve learned that it’s more important that my life has purpose, like saving lives and stolen paintings, rather than money. I mean, sure vacations and billions of dogs are nice but at the end of the day, that won’t help anyone. By helping other people through my job, I can empower myself with the fact that I was able to make a difference in this world. If I compare my life to everyone else’s lives, then I’ll constantly feel bad about my income, and that won’t get me anywhere and it won’t help anyone else. The world needs help and I’d rather be part of the solution by leading a meaningful and purposeful life rather that blinding myself with money and fancy vacations.

Love you,



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